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The future of mainstream media in Jordan: A collective responsibility

Mar 21,2018 - Last updated at Mar 21,2018

More and more people are turning to social media sites for news, with the rate standing at one out of four in the US, and the platforms, according to Columbia Journalism Review, have not just "swallowed journalism", but they have also "swallowed everything", including ads, leaving mainstream media, especially the print outlets, under the sway of colossal, unstoppable changes. 

The situation in Jordan's media shares a lot of the features of the new reality of the global traditional media, but it has its particularities inherent in the country's socio-political environment that make them salvageable, if all stakeholders do their respective parts.   

First of all, let's agree that despite the perception that the print media industry is a dying business, it remains, like the rest of mainstream outlets, the most trusted source of news, and since they are already online and have their foothold in social media, what is required is a makeover that ensures a big comeback. 

For their part, the country's struggling newspapers should embrace the future and be one step ahead of all. They also need to revisit their editorial policies to render content more attractive and in-depth, let alone more credible, something citizen journalism cannot offer as it is in many cases knee-deep in a quagmire of sensationalism, gossip, character assassination, arbitrary judgements and falsehood. 

For the media organisations themselves, they are, of course, required to adopt cost-cutting measures and work out new solutions for money generation, utilising their online presence and other strengths to reverse their fortunes. Sponsored content for advertisers is one technique towards that end. 

The government, for its part, has done part of its job by increasing the rate of official ads, which has helped indeed, but it can do more. Challenged itself with a flood of online smear campaigns, the government has the right to balanced and informative reports, which makes it imperative for officials to open up to national media with utter transparency and, seriously, realise that 20th century-style spins do not work anymore in the digital age. Besides, 140-character messages on Twitter, even if they reach millions, are not efficient enough to get the messages through. In the US, Pew Research Centre has reported a reverse trend that has seen significantly more subscriptions to major newspapers as readers are running back from fake news to the safety and soundness of classical journalism.   

Two other things can be done by the state. The first is to use mainstream media, especially the ailing newspapers as content generators, and platforms, to feed vigorous campaigns to promote national causes, which is now an accepted practice in the US, and ensure that part of the funding earmarked for these drives goes to newspapers, without falling in the taboo of conflict of interest. Tourism and investment promotion, anti-extremism, combating child labour and efforts to encourage student enrolment in vocational and technical training are good examples. 

More importantly, in media organisations where the government has stakes and influence, the appointment of board members that are ignorant of media reality, planning and potential should be stopped. In fact, appointment of such people for the sake of appeasement and "rewarding" should come to an end everywhere. 

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Comments

I wholeheartedly stand in full solidarity with your recommendations but all indications already point in the opposite direction. The downfall of our local print media didn't start yesterday it has been snowballing for several years. It started way back with the shut down of Al-aswaq news paper, followed by the demise of the weeklys, and in more recent history the shut down of the once popular Al arab Al Youm newspaper. Even the two main dailies Al rai and Al dustour are facing major financial challenges and on the verge of becoming insolvent despite all of the earnest efforts by media savvy personnel to put them back on track to recovery ; they are still on the cusp of a precipitously falling into a slippery slope . Some of the Journalists In these dailies didn't get paid for months, they go daily to do their jobs because of their pride in keeping the edifices they built over they years from crumbling down. Their pensions are being threatened, their health insurance is in jeopardy, and payments to their social security funds aren't being made on time. A recent meeting was held between the head of Jordan press association and the newspapers administrators to safeguard the the employees job security, and to assert the safety and security of their earned benefits. Grant you many print media publications around the world are facing similar fate due to the advent of digital media and social network platforms. I hope that our pundits begin thinking about the future and not get bogged down with trying to put a bandage on the current crisis and hope for the best. At this point in time a brand new approach is essential to keep up with the fast moving every day minute by minute current events, it must reach the readers directly into their personal computers and mobile phones instantaneously as they occur. Advertisers must be persuaded that digital media is just as good if not even better than print media. Stalwart website with rich content that caters to variety of tastes from the young to the old must be structured by each local publication to reinvigorate the parchment for reading and examining the content of these solidly built websites. We do have an abundance of talented people to fulfill the spirit of the contemporary zeitgeist.

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